The name GSX-R has cult status in motorcycling circles. It was one of those motorcycles that could only be described as a race-bike with lights. And in the 1980s, when it was first released, that was what it was – motorcycles that Suzuki used to race that were made road legal by adding on some bits and bobs. That was in 1984. The GSX-R went through several transformations through the years, but of late, it has been feeling a little out of breath. In a world of electronic black magic, a legendary name won’t be enough beyond a point. And that’s exactly what has been happening with the GSX-R. But not anymore. Because, there’s a new GSX-R in town and it’s come loaded to its nose with all the gadgetry you could ever want. Mmmmm…
The new GSX-R will be available in standard and R trims, both of which get the new look. The design still throws back to the previous generations. So, the headlight and air intake positioning is still true to the tradition set by the K3 GSX-R. That said, there has been considerable aero work done on this bike and Suzuki claims it to be the most “slippery” GSX-R ever. They also say it is more compact than ever thanks to a narrower engine and chassis. So, in comparison to the older motorcycle, it is narrower at the waist and tail.
At first look, though, it remains a rather large motorcycle. Something that stays true even when you climb aboard. The seat feels quite high and despite weighing only 203kg, it doesn’t mask its weight at standstill quite like some of the others. This makes walking the bike around a bit cumbersome, especially if you’re not too tall. However, once you start riding the motorcycle, it all goes away. The GSX-R1000R is a great-handling motorcycle. The new chassis has a lot to do with this. The aluminium, twin-spar unit, aside from being narrower, lighter and more rigid, has also had some slight geometry changes. Since the engine now sits a bit closer to vertical, Suzuki could shorten the distance from the front axle to the swingarm pivot by 20mm (leading to slightly less rake and trail) while lengthening the distance from the pivot to the rear axle by 40mm (leading to an increase of 15mm in wheelbase).
This allows the new bike to have way more front-end feel while remaining very, very stable. This, together with Showa’s top-spec Balance Free Fork and Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite shock, makes the R absolutely rock solid through corners. The precision and poise is incredible. Even with the stock Bridgestone Battlax Street RS10s, you can crank the bike right over without a worry. At full lean, there is lots of feedback coming at you from the front and you can always tell what the front end is doing and how much traction you have left. The downside, though, is that the bike is a bit heavy to steer when compared to the other litre-classers.
So, in tight chicanes (which are aplenty on the Kari Motor Speedway where we tested the bike), you really need to put your arms to use. On Kari’s 800m main straight, the bike would hit 225kph on the clocks without a problem. With some determination and a lot more courage, I’m sure you could be much faster. So, the litre-bike performance isn’t lacking and the GSX R1000R will always want to stand up in the first three gears when accelerating all the way to the 14,500rpm redline. But what really amazes is that Suzuki has made all of the 199bhp from the 999.8 cc inline-four so usable. A lot of the credit for that has to go to the variable valve timing system, the dual-stage intake system and the exhaust tuning system.
Unlike other VVTs, Suzuki’s SR-VVT uses centrifugal force. The guide plate for the cams sits on 12 steel balls placed in grooves in the intake cam sprocket. As the revs climb, the centrifugal forces move the balls outward, moving the guide plate with them and hence changing the valve timing. The system is more compact and simpler than others and helps make a seamless change in timing rather than a drastic switchover. This, along with the dual-stage intakes (that allow more air into cylinders one and four at high RPMs) and the exhaust tuning system (that alters back pressure by opening butterfly valves between cylinders one and four, and two and three), makes for usable power right through the rev range.
The engine itself has grown slightly in displacement compared to the older one. It runs higher compression and gets new, forged, lightweight, short-skirt pistons. The valve-train has also been redesigned. The gearbox remains largely the same with slightly altered ratios to make up for the power bump, but now gets a Clutch Assist System that limits wheel lockage during downshifts but also reduces clutch slippage when the engine is delivering full power. One major difference is that the engine has now lost its balancer shaft, which makes it slightly more vibey than other inline-fours. But only slightly.
Like most other motorcycles in the segment now, the new GSX-R also gets a tonne of electronics to go with it. A six-axis IMU controls 10-level traction control and cornering ABS while the new ride-by-wire throttle bodies allow for three riding modes. The difference in this system is that levels one to four are placed very close to each other in terms of electronic intervention. This allows you to fine tune your settings on the racetrack according to current conditions. The other six are more widely spaced out for street use. The riding modes too are meant for different scenarios – racetrack, street and wet. There is also a bi-directional quickshifter that has to be one of the slickest units ever!
So, overall, the new GSXR-1000R is a pretty bulletproof machine. But there are some chinks in the armour. For one, the brakes. Despite being 320mm Brembos, the lack of braided lines cause a lot of fade under consistent high-speed braking. Especially when going into the first corner at Kari, you really have to lean on the brakes hard. And when they start progressively getting more lever-travel, it saps away some of the confidence in an otherwise super-stable chassis. Secondly, if it had steered a little lighter, at least a few more seconds could have been saved at tight little circuits like Kari. Overall, though, the new GSX-R1000R is certainly a force to contend with. Whatever it was lacking in terms of spec, Suzuki has now made up for. And in a way, they have kept the essence of the GSX-R alive when bringing it to the modern world.